Monday, August 29, 2011

Face Down: A True Story of Helplessness

Today I am in the middle of editing the draft of my second book, In Every Place, set to release sometime in January 2012, and in light of my previous blog entry about posture in prayer, I decided to share a story included in my next book. This story accounts the first time I instinctively knew that praying FACEDOWN was what I needed to do. 

Perhaps you make it a habit to pray on your face, prostrate before God. Maybe you've been doing it a long time. My first time was in July, 1991, in the middle of a heavily oppressed area of Ivory Coast, West Africa. We had been living (temporarily) in abandoned mission housing in a village-town called Pehe. Having been displaced from our established ministry in Liberia because of civil war, we had chosen to go and live among the Liberian refugees in the neighboring country of Ivory Coast. As noble as that may sound, there were times we knew we had bit off more than we knew how to chew.


Black Monday
July, 1991

During a seemingly non-eventful Monday afternoon in the small village of Pehe, two men stepped up to our door and knocked, changing our afternoon into an extraordinary event. It was John Deah and his son. While living in Tappeta (Liberia), I had taught him and his wife to read because they had a desire to study God’s Word but possessed less than a proficient ability to read. Living in Liberia, John had heard that we and our co-workers, the Sheppards, were back in West Africa. How the news traveled among the African people without the aid of cell phones and computers, we could never figure out, but not much was hidden from them.

While visiting us for the afternoon, John told some amazing stories which had happened in the three years since we had seen him. Feeling compelled that he was called to preach, he had refused to take up arms and fight in the rebel army. For that decision, he was beaten many times, but he plodded on. He became somewhat like a modern day Apostle Paul, wandering from town to town preaching God’s Word to anyone that would listen - and often, having to flee for his life.

He thanked me again for taking the time to teach him to read so that he could be used of God in His work. Later, it occurred to me that while ministering in Tappi, I had truly listened to a lie for choosing to believe that taking care of my girls, my home, my husband, and doing what little ministry (teaching Liberians to read) I could from my house really was not enough. Today as I write this, I am again astounded by God’s amazing power in my life. Through my tears, complaints, grumblings, and discontentment, He was there. He was working. He was using me. In spite of myself.

It was a sweet afternoon of catching up with John and as the sun headed towards the horizon, John
and his son walked back to the bus stop on the main. Within minutes, we heard a building commotion, and when we glanced out one of our windows, we were perplexed to see John and his son running full force towards us. Jeff quickly opened the door as the two men dove inside and screamed, “They coming to kill us! Close the door! Hide us! They want to kill us!” With the slam of the door, we had centered ourselves in the middle of vicious tribal animosities. We had no idea.

By the time John could explain to us what had happened between gasps of fear, our house
was surrounded with nearly one hundred angry Africans yelling for us to kick the traitors out.
John and his son were of the Gio tribe who were, at the time, winning the Liberian civil war. The
townspeople (whether Ivorians or Liberians) in Pehe were of the Krahn tribe and had taken upon themselves to declare any Gio tribesman their mortal enemy. At the bus stop, someone supposedly recognized John and screamed to the crowd that there was a murderer among them! Following suit, another Krahn man slapped John soundly in the face while shouting that John had killed his family in Liberia. Death was in the air.

The town and its residents already tense because of the present war situation, it did not take long for the accusations and frenzy to build. John and his son perceived almost immediately that they were in grave danger. It was then that they madly sprinted back to our house, which was located ominously in the very middle of town.

As the sun flickered and ebbed at the horizon, our lives changed drastically. The crowd outside our house was growing as was the noise of their disgruntlement. Before long, we saw torches being
burned close to our windows and decided it would be best to put our children under a bed in one of the back bedrooms. At the time of this sobering event, Michelle was 8, Stefanie was 5, and Lauren had just turned 1. We tried to make a game out of the situation and not allow them to see our fear. That, in itself, was a feat.

( be continued, of course)